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Bright Like a Diamond: Rihanna, The Illuminati & Semiotics

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

“In plain sight,” and “they’re not even trying to hide it anymore,” cried the conspiracy theorists as Barbadian pop singer Rihanna concluded her 13-minute Super Bowl LVII halftime show by flashing a distinctive hand gesture. Suspicions were further aroused by cameras taking the opportunity to cut to a wide shot of the fireworks and the crowd. The conclusion for conspiracists was clear, Rihanna had with this gesture renewed her allegiance to the Illuminati like many before.

Now, with the existence of the Illuminati seemingly confirmed, a quick survey of the people photographed flashing this highly incriminating hand gesture should finally reveal, once and for all, the global elites in control of the new world order. These it turns out fall into four main categories:

  1. American rapper and Roc Nation founder Jay-Z,

  2. Artists and other celebrities associated with the Roc Nation agency/label,

  3. Guests photographed (usually alongside Jay-Z) at Roc Nation events, and

  4. Professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page.

So, not exactly the list of billionaires and world leaders my conspiratorial past self may have expected. Except, perhaps, for that one shot of Warren Buffet, but this was, it turns out, taken at the 2012 grand reopening of Jay-Z's 40/40 nightclub in New York as apparently the two are old friends.

Oh, and if you thought you’d perhaps spotted a pattern until we got down to that last entry on the list, it’s worth noting that in 2005 Page sued Jay-Z for trademark infringement over his diamond cutter hand gesture and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. This seemingly freed up Jay-Z to trademark his own throwing a roc hand gesture in 2018, which uses a diamond, known as a “rock” in slang to represent the Roc in the name of his Roc Nation talent agency/record label.

This hand gesture as a sign will, according to the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s dyadic model, consist of signifier (form) and signified (concept), the relationship between which is arbitrary, fixed only by social convention. The arbitrariness of the relationship between these elements means different conventions can exist in different communities, including hip-hop/rap creators, 90’s wrestling fans and indeed Illuminati conspiracists.

The significance of social convention is highlighted in American logician C.S. Peirce’s triadic model, which explicitly distinguishes interpretant (sense) from referent (object) to show a representamen (form) has a particular meaning in the mind of a particular interpreter and that this meaning may well be at odds with the actual object. It is interesting to note that, in the case of the hand gesture in question, sense seemingly outweighs the form, with the conspiracists seeing a triangle where the rap and wrestling fans see a diamond.

So, the question remains, was Rihanna renewing her illuminati contract as the online conspiracist claim or was she perhaps throwing a roc to the man who as head of her record label/management company had mentored her since the very beginning of her professional career and who was, somewhat unsurprisingly given that the half-time show was produced by Roc Nation, in the audience watching with his 11-year-old daughter?

Fortunately for us, when not declaring the author dead, French semiotician Roland Barthes identified anchorage and relay as ways the meaning of such polysemous signs are fixed. Accordingly, Rihanna would have combined imagery and linguistical elements to create the preferred or dominant reading that she intended. In this case, the authorial intent of her raised hand gesture was seemingly fixed by having it follow immediately on from her final line, “like diamonds in the sky.”

Thus, it appears, that Rihanna was indeed just throwing a roc, and that the illuminati conspiracy theories can be laid to rest. At least, that is, until the conspiracists notice that the Roc in Roc Nation does not refer to a diamond but is in fact apparently an abbreviation of the name of Jay-Z’s previous label, Roc-a-Fella, and indeed its homonym, Rockefeller!

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